Apple Store (illustration)
Apple Store (illustration)Reuters

A New York judge said on Monday that the U.S. Justice Department cannot force Apple to provide the FBI with access to locked iPhone data in a routine Brooklyn drug case, CNBC reports.

The decision by U.S. Magistrate Judge James Orenstein follows the recent order by a judge in California requiring Apple to create software to help unlock the iPhone of one of the shooters in the December 2 killing of 14 people in San Bernardino, California.

In October, Orenstein invited Apple to challenge the government's use of a 1789 law to compel Apple to help it recover iPhone data in criminal cases. Since then, Apple has opposed the requests to help extract information from over a dozen iPhones in California, Illinois, Massachusetts and New York, noted CNBC.

The New York case is "directly on point" with the situation in California, a senior Apple executive said in a press briefing Monday. While the California judge would not be required to follow the decision, it may have "some persuasive effect" on the outcome, the executive said.

The executive contended that, in asking Apple to create a new software in the California case, the government took a more onerous stance in New York.

The executive argued that the difference between a shooting and drug investigation would not matter because the Constitution "doesn't distinguish" between those types of crime.

Apple last week argued in court against the ruling ordering it to help the FBI unlock shooter Syed Farook's phone, arguing that such a move would violate its free speech rights and require it to devote significant resources to comply.

Apple also argued that the court was over-stepping its jurisdiction, noting that Congress had rejected legislation that would have required companies to do the things the government is asking Apple to do in this case.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has said that the company is prepared to take the case to the Supreme Court if necessary.